Lucassen's Star One, Arjen Anthony - Space Metal

Year of Release: 2002
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMLTDCD 099
Format: CD
Total Time: 96:49:00

Well, to be honest, I was expecting this move for a while now. Having released two albums in one go the last time around, Arjen Lucassen mainly did this to see which album would be selling the best. Although both Universal Migrator albums virtually sold a similar number of copies, it was the "harder" Flight Of The Migrator which had a slight advantage over its "softer" counterpart. With his new toy in the form of ProTools, Arjen placed himself behind his computer for 6 1/2 months in order to deliver the Ambeon project. Now to make sure the balance is right again, he was able to devote some time towards harder-edged, metal oriented material. As happened with the soft side of his output, he once again chose a completely different name, making sure the name Ayreon remains untouched. Listening to Star One, Arjen has once again collected a bunch of first class musicians and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Star One became a live unit in the time to come. The music is perfect for taking on the road and over the years our "basketball player size" Dutchman has gathered enough friends around him to last him a lifetime (no, they are not all of the Dickinson calibre!). It might only be difficult where the vocal section of the project is concerned because for the album Space Metal, Arjen has gathered no fewer than four singers around him. I really hope he might persuade Russell Allen to put his Symphony X band aside for a while so we can expect some real fireworks in our backyard!

But that might be "later" so let's keep it NOW for the time being which is more than a hand full when you know there's also a limited 2CD version, which, of course, we're reviewing here. Backed throughout by the impressive Ed Warby on drums, Arjen played most of the instruments himself, leaving the guest spots for Jens Johansson (Dio, Stratovarius, Yngwie Malmsteen), Erik Norlander and Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) on keyboards. The vocals from Russell Allen, Damion Wilson (ex-Threshold and now Rick Wakeman's New English Rock Ensemble), Dan Swanö (ex-Edge of Sanity, Nightingale) and Floor Jansen (After Forever) are constantly being switched. If you've ever had the chance to visit Arjen's private "electric castle" in the Dutch city of Rijsbergen, then you know that next to his girlfriend Yolanda and music, Lucassen also has a passion for science fiction. Music and SF form the ideal marriage on this Space Metal album because all the tracks are based on existing films [or television shows]. Where are the SF experts to help us out here? The first synth sounds from taster "Lift-Off" immediately give us the Lucassen trademark and when "Set Your Controls" unleash the smoke from your speakers I can't help thinking about Montrose's "Jump On It." In "High Moon" Floor Jansen's high vocals are embedded in heavy guitars, which is as if you're listening to some Lana Lane music.

"Songs Of The Ocean" opens with the sound of a submarine, also containing the "fat" sound of the Hammond whilst the guitar slightly reminds us of Brian May. A synth duel between Jens and Erik forms an important part of "Master Of Darkness," where all the vocals blend together nicely. Then again, Arjen has chosen some nice vocal timbres in order to create a surprising palette as opposed to certain projects and bands who use identical voices next to one another. "Master Of Darkness" also introduces Gary Wehrkamp who attacks the synths adding even more "power" to the music. The intro for "The Eye Of Ra" maybe gets closest to the approach of Ayreon, which might well be the result of the synths. I also adore the way these synths pierce through the guitars during the intro for "Sandrider." In "Perfect Survivor" it sounds as if drums and keyboards are working against each other, which adds to the originality, yet you have to get used to it because the line between originality and cacophony is thin! For me the highlight comes right at the very end, where the longest track emerges in the form of "Starchild." This track serves as a reminder of all the rest of the material with yet again a superb Russell Allen [singing]. Arjen also proves he can play a decent bit of bass guitar, laying down a firm foundation together with Ed Warby. By adding the inevitable guitar - and synth - solos, it's the deep voice of Dan Swano that brings this song and the actual album to a close.

However, we do have an extra because as said before this concerns the limited edition of the album thus including a lengthy bonus disc on which we find no fewer than six tracks (the sleeve says six yet my disc contains seven!). The first track is bullseye straight away when Arjen illustrates his love for science fiction by means of the "Hawkwind Medley." In order to make it even more interesting he was able to convince Dave Brock to lend his "floating" vocal style. With "Silver Machine" as the band's definitive highlight, the Hawkwind music gets a harder arrangement than it's used to getting, which might inspire Brock for things to come? Although the music of Arjen Lucassen is original and inspires a lot of people to launch similar projects, he nevertheless "borrows" the odd riff here and there resulting in a track like "Spaced Out" to sound almost like Deep Purple's "Highway Star"! However "Inseperable Enemies" is once again Ayreon magic with cutting synths and powerful guitars. One of the weakest tracks on this set is Arjen's version of the Bowie classic "Space Oddity," reminding me of the weak first solo offering of Arjen on his Pools Of Sorrow - Waves Of Joy album released under the moniker of Anthony. Only the bluesy guitar I like, but the rest is best to be forgotten. By then we have arrived at the inclusion of some superfluous material, such as yet another version of "Starchild" this time mixed in Dolby Pro-Logic which to me doesn't sound at all different from the other version. "Spaced Out" comes in an alternative version with different singers which does not add anything at all to the material. As said before, this should be the last song but my disc contains an extra song in the form of an acoustic leftover which sounds like a relic from Peter Sellers or Monty Python. "The Intergalactic Laxative" tells the story of someone's admiration for astronauts but also about his/her astonishment when he/she is informed that astronauts wear "nappies" in which they "shit and pee." Not really a song to close an album and one wonders who the hell the Neil Innes soundalike singer can be?

In short we can say that the bonus disc is indeed what its name implies: a bonus disc and not a disc sporting quality material. Space Metal itself is the kind of album that makes heavy metal acceptable again without having to include the NU-metal attitude. A pumping rhythm section, soaring guitars and especially an impressive collection of vocal chords make sure that Arjen 'Anthony' Lucassen has once again created a succesful formula next to Ayreon and Ambeon. Now all we're waiting for are those concerts!

Also was released as a single disc (disc 1) edition (IOMCD 099) and released in North America by the now defunct InsideOut Music America (IOMACD 2036)

Disc One: Lift-Off (1:13) / Set Your Controls (6:01) / High Moon (5:36) / Songs Of The Ocean (5:23) / Master Of Darkness (514) / The Eye Of Ra (7:34) / Sandrider (5:31) / Perfect Survivor (4:46) / Intergalactic Space Crusaders (5:22) / Starchild (9:04)

Disc Two: Hawkwind Medley (9:46) / Spaced Out (4:53) / Inseperable Enemies (4:15) / Space Oddity (4:59) / Starchild Mixed In Dolby Pro-Logic) (9:31) / Spaced Out (Alternative Version) (4:55)

Arjen Lucassen - guitars, keyboards, vocals, bass, mellotron, synths, Solina strings
Ed Warby - drums
Jens Johansson - keyboards
Erik Norlander - keyboards
Gary Wehrkamp - guitar solos

Russell Allen - vocals
Damian Wilson - vocals
Dan Swanö - vocals
Floor Jansen - vocals
Robert Soeterboek - backing vocals

Ayreon - The Final Experiment (1995)
Ayreon - Actual Fantasy (1996)
Ayreon - Into The Electric Castle (1998)
Ayreon - The Univeral Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer (2000)
Ayreon - The Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator (2000)
Ayreon - Ayreonnauts Only
Ambeon - Fate Of A Dreamer (2001)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One - Space Metal (2002)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One - Live On Earth (2003)
Ayreon - The Human Equation (2004)
Ayreon - Actual Fantasy Revisited (2004)
Ayreon - The Final Experiment - Special Edition (2005)
Ayreon - 01011001 (2008)
Arjen Lucassen's Guilt Machine - Arjen Lucassen's Guilt Machine (2009)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One - Victims Of The Modern Age (2010)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Lost In The New Real (2012)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin VA

Added: May 18th 2002
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 651
Language: english


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